The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) mandated paid sick leave (the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act) expired on December 31, 2020. However, the latest federal stimulus bill (The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021) extends the tax credit for those employers who continue to voluntarily provide emergency paid sick leave through March 2021.
The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA), mandated that employers with under 500 employees provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave for reasons related to COVID-19.. This could include being out sick because of quarantine or isolation, experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, caring for someone who has COVID-19, and/or caring for children whose schools have closed and the employee is unable to work from home. The EPSLA provided employees with more job security, as they were not forced to choose between following public health guidelines and their paycheck.
Because the FFCRA was not extended, these protections for employees no longer apply. While the mandated paid sick and family leave has expired, the tax credit for employers that continue to voluntarily provide their employees with paid sick and family leave is extended through March of 2021. Employees also still have rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and may be able to convert to an unpaid FMLA leave.
While the FFCRA mandated paid sick leave has expired, the pandemic still rages on and both employers and employees will continue to face COVID-19 related scenarios in the workplace. States may expand their laws further, but at the moment, it’s very unclear what will happen in regards to paid sick leave caused by reasons related to COVID-19.
For many employers, especially public employers, employees who have symptoms of coronavirus or need to quarantine will likely have their leave covered under sick leave policies. However, without the FFCRA leave entitlements, each employer will be making these decisions on their own. Ideally, reasonable accommodations will be made — such as additional time off, a modified schedule, or remote work — but some employees may be forced to take unpaid leave or be let go altogether.
The Noble Law Coronavirus Task Force will continue to provide information regarding COVID-19 and employment law issues. If you are facing issues in your workplace related to employee leave, travel, healthcare, or other employment problems caused by the pandemic, we strongly recommend consulting with one of our employment attorneys. We offer remote consultations and serve clients in both North Carolina and New York.